August 30, 2009

life in financial markets: which commodities (in derivatives) trade more in india?

I was having a look at the 28Aug09 trading value numbers of the derivative contracts traded on the two commodity derivatives exchanges in India – National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Ltd (NCDEX) and Multi Commodity Exchange of India Ltd (MCX). The idea was to get a sense of which commodities are currently attracting the most trades on both the exchanges.

I give below two tables (click on the two images to see the tables enlarged and clear) that give each commodity’s percentage of total traded value. But, in brief, it is seen that futures on Guar Seed, Chana, Soya Oil, Soyabean, Turmeric and Guar Gum dominated the trading on NCDEX while futures on Crude Oil, Copper, Gold, Silver, Nickel and Natural Gas dominated the trading on MCX.

August 29, 2009

life in general: beautiful bombay sky!

Today morning, I was looking up at the clouds-laced sky here in Bombay. It was a beautiful mix of white/dark, scattered/dense & designer/simple! Just magnificent!

The monsoon clouds clean up the Bombay sky which is otherwise, normally, very hazy.

Look up!

August 24, 2009

life in general: subversive ciruclars & notifications by state governments in india

The constitution of India and the various Parliament-enacted legislations may not be the most foolproof democracy-enhancing documents but they are certainly worthy of implementation. But the ruling state governments in India subvert this rights-protection umbrella through manipulative and rights-circumventing circulars and notifications. Below is one example of how this happens (its an email that I received, as a part of being on a mailing list).

Here goes:

Date: 2009/8/24
Subject: [nbapresslist] Narmada Valley roars: LOK SABHA ke oopar GRAM SABHA


• 62 M.G Marg, Badwani, Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Telefax: 07290-222464; E-mail:
•Maitri Niwas, Tembewadi, Behind Kakawadi, Dhadgav, Dist. Nandurbar,
Maharashtra - 425414 – Telefax: 02595-220620

For Immediate Release Date: 24th August, 2009



Hundreds of adivasis, farmers, fish workers, potters, artisans, women and men,
including various persons affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project, Indira Sagar
and Omkareshwar Canal Project, Jobat Dam, Goi and Gomai Projects and many
others took out a huge ‘mashaal juloos’ through the main streets of Badwani
today and gathered before the Old Collector office to participate in a mass
Sammelan to assert their constitutional and fundamental right to development
planning within their Gram Sabhas.

People at the Sammelan welcomed the recent Order of the Hon’ble High Court of
Madhya Pradesh ordering a status quo on the land acquisition and canal
excavation work in the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar Canals since the concerned
Gram Sabhas in the scheduled areas were not consulted before the land
acquisition as per the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas), Act, 1996;
which the Court said “is a legislation that has been enacted by the
Parliament by virtue of the power conferred by Article 243-M 4(b) of the

Prominent speakers at the Sammelan included Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Former
Professor of Political Science, Delhi University, Shri Kalyan Jain, Former
Parliamentarian and Shri Gautam Bandopadhyay; Social Activist, Nadi Ghati
Morcha, Chattisgarh. They all, in their fiery address to the people asserted
the fact that the first right to plan and decide how the resources must be
utilized in their regions must only taken place with the informed consultation
and consent of the local people.

Bava Mahariya of Jalsindhi, Kamla Yadav, Chhota Barda (Badwani), Kesariabhai
from Goi (Badwani) Devenbhai from Piplaj (Tehsil Manawar, Dhar Dist.),
Mansarambhai from Kothada (Manawar Tehsil), Jagdish bhai from Gogawa (Maheshwar
Tehsil, Khargone Dist) and many other representatives of the above mentioned
project – affected persons from the villages of Badwani, Khargone, Alirajpur
and Dhar districts also spoke in detail on how planning within their Gram
Sabhas is becoming a challenge in the face of an insensitive and bureaucratic
State. Nevertheless they shall struggle tooth and nail to ensure that their
basic democratic rights within the Gram Sabha are not snatched away by the
State. Medha Patkar and Ashish Mandloi of Narmada Bachao Andolan also
addressed the gathering on the pivotal role and rights of Gram Sabhas within
the constitutional scheme and called upon people not to relent in their
non-violent struggle. The Sammelan was also attended by some Janpad Members
from Badwani, Manawar and Kukshi Tehsils who also expressed concern that there
is a need to consult the people at the Gram Sabha.

It is unfortunate and infact unconstitutional that the Government of Madhya
Pradesh is making fervent attempts to weaken the constitutional mandate and
democratic processes by bringing out ‘Circulars’ and ‘Notifications’ to
violate the PESA Act. While the State Gram Swaraj Adhiniyam itself has omitted
by the non-negotiable features of the PESA Act, GoMP has issued one more
Circular on the 30th July (even as the High Court stay is in vogue) declaring
that “for Narmada valley projects ‘Janpad’ will be the ‘appropriate
Panchayat’ for consultation and not the Gram Sabha! The people have
challenged this inside and outside the Court and today, the speakers joined the
people of the valley in publicly burning off this Notification and demanded
that this state-sponsored attempt to finish off the villages and Gram Sabhas in
the adivasi areas would not be brooked.

The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (Section 4) makes
consultation with the Gram Sabhas pre-conditional not just before land
acquisition and before resettlement and rehabilitation but infact before any
scheme is planned in the scheduled areas. But the Government of Madhya Pradesh
is till date openly flouting this law, which is seriously compromising the
rights of adivasis.

We, the nature-based communities see the Order of the High Court as a step in
the just direction and an opportunity before us to really participate in the
planning process in our Gram Sabhas before large projects such as dams and
canals are imposed upon us by mis-information and force. While today, the lands
and resources of farmers and adivasis is being looted and given at throwaway
prices to huge builders, corporates and capitalists, owing to the pressure of
the latter and ignoring the interests of the country’s majority, the people
don’t have a choice but to fight back this exploitation and injustice and
guard their common resources such as water, lands, forests, minerals and fish
from going into private profiteering hands.

Towards the end of the Sammelan, the Tehsildar had to come to the people on
behalf of the District Collector Mr. N.B.S. Rajput to accept the memorandum
which was read out in his presence and would be reached to the Collector who
would also, it was demanded, have to forward this to the Chief Minister with a
detailed covering letter of his own. The hundreds of people present also took
out a resolve to fully endeavour to assert all their constitutional rights,
working towards the protection of human interests and the environment and stall
any related destruction.

It was also declared that soon after the Sammelan; people from the valley would
reach Bhopal on the 26th of August to meet the Governor Shri Rameshwar Thakur
and convincingly remind him of his constitutional duty towards ‘peace and
good governance’ in the adivasi areas.

With this Sammelan, thousands of adivasis and farmers have flagged off a
massive campaign for democratic rights-assertion in the Narmada Valley and give
a call to all fellow-organizations in the country to come together to translate
our long-pending vision of Gram Swaraj into reality by demanding for a
comprehensive legislation based on Article 243 of the Constitution. We also
appeal to all the intellectuals and concerned citizens of the country to
support this people’s struggle to achieve our constitutional goals of
equality and justice.

Mohanbhai Patidar Surbhanbhai Bhilala Gopalbhai Kamla Yadav
Kailash Awasya
Bhavaria Kakrana Mandil Chhota Barda

Ranveersingh Patel Jamsingh Richa Kishore Bhilala
Teekambhai Devram Kanera
Semalda Limbi Kharya Bhadal Jatpur

Kailash Yadav Devendra Tomar Dayaram Yadav Kailashbhai
Balabhai / Karan Patel
Kasravad Piplaj Piplood
Karondiya Pipri

Khaja Baba Kesariyabhai Jagdishbhai Mukheshbhai
Bhagore Khemabhai / Samratbhai
Malkotar, Pansemal Goi Gogawa, Maheshwar,
Nimola Jobat

Mohanbhai Sahdevbhai
Pipari Maan Shirsala

Contact: Ashish Mandloi (094248555042) Shrikanth (07290-222464)

August 19, 2009

life in financial markets: coming soon -- a global equity-based product on the NSE?

Today, if an Indian small individual investor, such as me, wants to invest in global ETFs and securities I hardly have much option other than go through (which is the only one that does not demand a minimum Rs 5 lakh worth of initial global investments) and 3-4 others like Kotak Securities, India Infoline etc. Even with them one has to convert Rs into Dollars and transmit the same to the international dollar account before executing trades on NYSE or any other exchange. The whole process is very cumbersome, time consuming and costly.

Shouldn't, therefore, an efficient stock exchange such as the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) list on itself ETFs (exchange traded funds) and/or equity-based securities/funds that are based on indices or securities from outside India (and run/managed by international ETF providers) or that are already listed on exchanges elsewhere outside India? This will make it possible for an investor like to me to buy or sell the global ETF/security right here in India and settle the trade on NSE in rupees. Its unfortunate but the NSE has been delayed in doing something about it despite having NYSE-Euronext as one of its shareholders (holding 5% stake).

Well, a little bird tells me that the NSE, indeed, is in the final stages of launching such a global ETF/product and an announcement is likely to be made within a week or month. As an investor, I hope I am not disappointed by the choice of the global ETF that NSE initially brings to India. I would also prefer to see a robust range of global products listed and traded on the NSE. I am particularly very bullish on alternative energy ETFs listed and traded on stock exchanges in US, UK, Singapore etc.

Lets see what NSE gets here.

UPDATE (11 MARCH 2010):
The global product has finally come. Read my 11 March 2010 blogpost

August 17, 2009

life in general: nature at its greenest best!

The serenity that nature offers when it is at its greenest best is amazing. Thanks to good rains in and around Bombay the mountains of the Western Ghats are lush with smiling trees and their sparkling leaves. Some days back I went to Matheran (about 79 kms from Bombay). I share below some pics (click on them to them enlarged & clearer) from there -- they speak for themselves.

August 16, 2009

global equity investors in indian derivatives & cash market

Around a month back, I wrote (in the magazine I work for) on an interesting trend seen in foreign institutional investors' (FIIs') investments in Indian equity market through the cash and derivatives segment. The text of this write-up follows below and so does a chart that nicely brings out the trend (click on the image to see it enlarged & clear).

Here is my write-up:

One way, two paths

Bear rally or a new bull rally? Will it sustain or collapse? These are questions weighing heavily in the minds of not just the Indian retail and institutional investors but also of the foreign institutional investors (FII). Two weeks after the mid-May strong rise in stock prices and as intra-day and daily volatility shot up investors seem to have got confused not knowing what to do.

But at the same time, on the back of a surge in liquidity among global investment funds, new FIIs are trying to profit from the volatility through the use of equity derivatives on the National Stock Exchange (NSE).

Underscoring these uncertainties and volatility exploitation is the trading pattern in the Indian cash and derivatives markets of FIIs. The data (see graph below) in recent weeks seems to bring out a growing negative relation between the collective directional views of the FIIs in the cash market versus that in the index futures and stock futures segment of the derivatives market.

Other than Life Insurance Corporation of India, the FIIs, as a whole, influence prices the most in the Indian equities markets. While LIC never dabbles in the derivatives market, many FIIs do. An institutional investor would tend to use equity derivatives for a couple of reasons.

One, it would want to hedge its cash market position against a short-term loss in value. For instance, in May, when net collective FII inflow (purchases minus sales) on the NSE and the Bombay Stock Exchange was a total of Rs 13,886 crore as per data released by the two exchanges, their sales in futures (on S&P CNX Nifty index, other indices and stocks) on the NSE were more than their purchases (that is, a net outflow) by Rs 8,070 crore as per data released by the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

In July, till the 20th, the position was reversed with the FIIs registering a net outflow of Rs 3,516 crore in the cash market and a net inflow of Rs 3,267 crore in futures on stocks and indices.

Secondly, analysts believe beta games are being played out. A FII, strongly bullish on some stocks will buy their shares in the cash market. But simultaneously it will sell Nifty futures expecting the stocks to be more volatile than the index in either direction. If the market rises it will profits on its stocks but lose index futures, but since the stocks are high beta its profit from stocks will be more than the loss in the index futures position. The attraction however is to limit the loss when the market goes down – stocks lose in value but this is buffered by a profit from the index futures position.

Thirdly, global funds have to deploy inflows or outflows into their kitties immediately in the market to give same-day net asset value to their investors. If such flows are sudden and large the institutional investor dreads the high impact cost it incurs in executing it all in the cash market in a single day. For a sudden large inflow, therefore, it will first buy stock futures to lock in the current market price. Then, over a few days, it will sell the futures and buy the stock in the cash market. "Money is managed dynamically by global investors to retain their competitive edge," says a derivatives desk dealer at Enam Securities.

These strategies are implemented across cash and derivatives market simultaneously and the directional positions taken are opposite to each other. Uncertainty and volatility can make a heavy cocktail.

August 13, 2009

life in general: largest rate of groundwater loss on earth

"This is probably the largest rate of groundwater loss in any comparable-sized region on Earth." that study said.

Now, thats chilling .

Its the last line of a latest news story on water woes on our Mother Earth. The focus is on India but coming from a study conducted by a non-Indian entity. Many affluent, educated Indians tend to arrogantly disregard any warnings given by Indian ecologists/environmentalists but do not mind being open to reading about the same coming from international groups. I know of a Editor-in-chief of a top business magazine in India who with unabashed arrogance criticises everything that is written by the head (who is Sunita Narain) of an Indian enviro
nmental group, Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment.

Anyway, even as many urban and semi-urban Indians use water in an excessi
ve, wasteful manner (see the pic alongside for one such wasteful use -- it is of a water park in Bombay, Water Kingdom, operated by a Zee Group company -- I took this pic in Dec '03 specially for a water story i wrote in a Bombay-based NGO's montly magazine), I am reproducing the news report in totality below and after that a summary of the original report in Nature magazine's latest issue. Study sees dramatic drop in Indian groundwater By TIM SULLIVAN (AP)
NEW DELHI — Excessive irrigation and the unrelenting thirst of tens of millions of people are causing groundwater levels in northern India to drop dramatically, a problem that could lead to severe water shortages, according to a study released Wednesday.
The study comes as India's struggles with water have become a major political issue. The problem reaches across the country's vast class divide, touching everyone from residents of elite neighborhoods where the taps regularly go dry to poor farmers in desperate need of irrigation to grow their crops.

Giving free electricity to farmers — who use that electricity to pump more groundwater — has become a common promise by campaigning politicians. That, though, simply makes the problem worse.
"This issue is of grave importance," said K. Sreelakshmi, a natural resource economist at New Delhi's Energy and Resources Institute, TERI. Sreelakshmi, who was not connected to the study, noted that previous research projects had revealed lowering groundwater, though this one used a new approach by relying on satellite data. "The question is what do we do about the problem," she said. "How do we recharge" India's dropping water table?
The study, led by Matthew Rodell of the United States' NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, indicated that groundwater across a swath of India from New Delhi into heavily farmed agricultural belts dropped at a rate of 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) per year between August 2002 and October 2008. That decrease in groundwater is more than double the capacity of India's largest reservoir.

The study noted that the drop in groundwater came in years where there was no shortage of rainfall to cause a natural decline.
The region, though, has seen an enormous increase in water use since the 1960s. Part of that is because of the growing population, though even more resulted from the so-called Green Revolution, which dramatically increased India's agricultural production — in part by exponentially expanding the use of groundwater for irrigation.
"Severe groundwater depletion is occurring as a result of human consumption," the researchers concluded in the study, released online in the journal Nature.
The study was based largely on data provided by GRACE — the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment — a satellite system launched in 2002 by NASA and the German Aerospace Center. GRACE allows scientists to estimate changes in groundwater storage by measuring tiny variations in the Earth's gravitational pull.

Another recent study based on GRACE data, using results from a 1,200-mile (2,000-kilometer) swath across eastern Pakistan, northern India and into Bangladesh, showed about 1.9 million cubic feet (54 cubic kilometers) of groundwater lost per year.
That study, in Geophysical Research Letters, was led by geophysicists Virendra Tiwari of the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad, India; John Wahr of the University of Colorado, Boulder; and Sean Swenson of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.

"This is probably the largest rate of groundwater loss in any comparable-sized region on Earth," that study said.

On the Net: Nature magazine:
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Satellite-based estimates of groundwater depletion in India

Matthew Rodell1, Isabella Velicogna2,3,4 & James S. Famiglietti2

1. Hydrological Sciences Branch, Code 614.3, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA
2. Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, California 92697-3100, USA
3. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91109-8099, USA
4. Department of Physics, University of Udine, 208 Via delle Scienze, 33100 Udine, Italy

Correspondence to: Matthew Rodell1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to M.R. (Email:

Groundwater is a primary source of fresh water in many parts of the world. Some regions are becoming overly dependent on it, consuming groundwater faster than it is naturally replenished and causing water tables to decline unremittingly1. Indirect evidence suggests that this is the case in northwest India2, but there has been no regional assessment of the rate of groundwater depletion. Here we use terrestrial water storage-change observations from the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites3 and simulated soil-water variations from a data-integrating hydrological modelling system4 to show that groundwater is being depleted at a mean rate of 4.0 plusminus 1.0 cm yr-1 equivalent height of water (17.7 plusminus 4.5 km3 yr-1) over the Indian states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana (including Delhi).
During our study period of August 2002 to October 2008, groundwater depletion was equivalent to a net loss of 109 km3 of water, which is double the capacity of India's largest surface-water reservoir. Annual rainfall was close to normal throughout the period and we demonstrate that the other terrestrial water storage components (soil moisture, surface waters, snow, glaciers and biomass) did not contribute significantly to the observed decline in total water levels. Although our observational record is brief, the available evidence suggests that unsustainable consumption of groundwater for irrigation and other anthropogenic uses is likely to be the cause.
If measures are not taken soon to ensure sustainable groundwater usage, the consequences for the 114,000,000 residents of the region may include a reduction of agricultural output and shortages of potable water, leading to extensive socioeconomic stresses.